Monday, February 23, 2009

Peter Schiff on the Housing Crisis

Peter Schiff wrote a great article explaining how we got into this economic mess and how all the policies the government is making are just going to make things worse. He really nails it here:

Although both lenders and borrowers were acting in their own perceived self-interest, what can we say of our economic policymakers who are expected to protect the good of all? Their actions encouraged the whole sad circus. Were it not for the excessively low interest rates provided by the Fed, the lax lending standards and moral hazards supplied by Congress courtesy of Freddie, Fannie, and the FHA, and the many real estate subsidies built into the tax code, none of these predatory loans would have been possible.

Had lenders exercised better judgment and had borrowers avoided overly burdensome debt loads, both parties would clearly be in better financial positions today. Instead, as borrowers were demanding the credit to fuel their dreams of instant real estate riches, lenders were being ordered to accommodate them.

In past generations, homebuyers were required to save for down payments and postpone their purchases until they could actually afford conventional 30-year fixed mortgages. But in recent years, as home ownership became a matter of public policy, the government accused lenders of discrimination and urged lower standards and easier terms. With government guarantees in place, the mortgage industry was happy to both expand their revenues and promote a better society.

But by denying credit, even if it requires borrowers to forgo something they clearly want, lenders not only provide a valuable service to borrowers, but to society. Given the mess in which we now find ourselves, due to the bad loans made during the real estate bubble, this lesson should have been well learned. Unfortunately it hasn't, as the same dynamic is now playing out on a much larger scale.

Faced with a prospect of downgrading its lifestyle, the U.S. government is instead borrowing trillions of dollars to artificially inflate our deflating bubble economy. The money is being used to both expand the size of government and finance additional consumer spending. Given our financial position, this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.